Fri, April 12, 2024

Of entrepreneurs and managers

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  • Let none claim supremacy for the good of business
Entrepreneurship is one word which figures the most in media columns aimed at young managers. Over the years, managers are ceding space to entrepreneurs. What could be the reason? I have no hard data to prove my hypothesis but it somehow appears that entrepreneurs are being increasingly viewed as creators who come up with new ideas, slog and strive to implement them, and in the process, generate work opportunities and wealth for a large number of employees and other stakeholders. Not only do they keep the wheels of business moving, but entrepreneurs also launch projects and activities unheard of before. That is why news about startups fast turning into unicorns no longer surprises us. It is becoming a norm. On the contrary, managers, however good they may be, are viewed as employees. They are usually not expected to come up with path-breaking ideas or disruptive technologies that could change the face of a market, business or enterprise. At best, they are expected to function as intrapreneurs, displaying the zeal and innovativeness of the original entrepreneur. How far is this distinction and perception justified? I personally feel that both entrepreneurs and managers have their own place in business. They are complementary to one another for the success and growth of a company or conglomerate. It would be injudicious for entrepreneurs, promoters or owners to look down upon their managers as ‘mere employees’ with inferior abilities. Yes, there is a difference between the two; it is a difference of mindset. One is perfectly entitled to opt for an employee’s position. It may not be the best idea to force him into entrepreneurship. The right to choice is supreme. People are more likely to excel in domains they love. Let me narrate an old anecdote. Seeing masons working at a place, a passerby asked what they were doing. The first mason said that he was constructing a wall. The second mason said he was engaged in building a temple where people could pray. The third mason responded, “I am building a temple where people may connect with their deity and realise the divinity within.” Same question but different replies! This indicates how different persons possess vastly varying mindsets. Their worldview is different. So are their expectations from work and life. The wise have realised that it is not prudent to force people into work domains where they do not have their heart. This contention applies to all, including wannabe entrepreneurs. Question is whether they think and act like promoters. Do they possess the entrepreneur’s mindset? Do they have the faintest idea of the troubles and tribulations a promoter has to go through to taste success? Is it not true that the shining road to success which we see an entrepreneur walking on currently is preceded by a path littered with failures and fumbling? Is it not true that a monthly pay cheque was only a dream for the budding businessman for years? Is it also not true that the aspiring entrepreneur had to endure personal sacrifices like separation from family and friends for long spells? Entrepreneurial success is highly demanding; it extracts your pound of flesh. How many are willing for this baptism by fire? So, I again assert that there is nothing right or wrong in one’s choice between the roles of entrepreneur and manager. After all, you know yourself best, and you will be able to give your best in the role of your choice. It is a known fact that most enterprises could not have reached the heights which they did without their highly accomplished and dedicated managers at different levels. Unlike their promoters, most managers do not have the privilege of failing and falling all too frequently. Therefore, their cautious approach to the day-to-day company affairs imparts stability and predictability to the functioning and future of their organisations. It has also been seen that many promoters, who have inherited their business from entrepreneurial ancestors, get used to receiving a certain fixed return come what may. These second and third generations, it has been observed, have lost the fire in the belly their ancestors were known for. They are no longer able to keep their batteries charged. They have put on fat, so to say. In other words, despite being the owner they are governed by the employee mindset. On the contrary, there is no dearth of forward-looking managers who wish to put the organisation on a sounder footing. Not always in sync with the owner, such professional managers want to build and leave behind something bigger than themselves! Are we not seeing many business behemoths being run by professional managers, whom we describe as employees, and largely independent boards of directors? The probability of hunting and employing high-performing managers is much higher than ensuring that inheritors of the business will necessarily be as bright as their ancestors. May harmony prevail between inheritors of business and their managerial ‘employees’. READ ALSO: 
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MARCH 2024

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